Toyota Verso review
The Toyota Verso is a rival to the Renault Grand Scenic, offering low running costs and value for money
The Toyota Verso is a very capable family car. Toyota gave it a facelift towards the end of 2012 and earlier in 2014 added a BMW 1.6-litre diesel engine to the range to help it compete with big-selling rivals like the Renault Grand Scenic and Ford Grand C-MAX. The changes follow the new 'Keen Look' design language introduced with the Auris, which included a sleeker grille and LED headlights. The suspension, steering and engines have also been revised, while the line-up now offers more equipment for less money. There's a choice of two petrols and a diesel which offers decent fuel consumption with figures of 62.8mpg and 119g/km of CO2. Strong residual values across the range and low company car tax make the Verso an attractive choice for fleet buyers, as well as growing families and like all Toyotas it comes with an impressive 100,000 mile five-year manufacturer warranty as standard.
Our choice: Verso Excel 1.6 D-4D
The Toyota Verso was facelifted in 2013 with Toyota’s ‘Keen Look’ design language that debuted on the new Auris. The uninspiring grille and headlights of the old car were replaced by an all-new front-end design, with LED headlamps, a smart new grille and front bumper. The only changes from the side are the smaller, more aerodynamic mirrors that help to improve fuel economy, while at the rear there’s a new bumper. Interior changes are limited with a new gearnob and updated infotainment system but Toyota hasn't taken any steps to making the cabin fell a bit more upmarket. A lot of the materials are flimsy and the bare dash shows a lack of attention. Next to a Ford Grand C-MAX, and the new Citroen C4 Picasso, the Verso looks rather low-rent. However, the switchgear is sturdy and should stand up to the rough and tumble of family life without any trouble. At the start of 2014 Toyota added a new 'Trend' trim level, which includes striking grey 17-inch alloy wheels, a clearer, easier to use touchscreen and new seat trims across the line-up. A new gear lever that's nicer to hold has been fitted too - but its a small change and does little to lift the dated feel of the interior.
You wouldn’t expect a spacious MPV to deliver a particularly entertaining drive and predictably this is the case with the Verso. The new 1.6-litre diesel is the pick of the range for overall drivability, thanks to its relatively smooth power delivery. It comes with a precise six-speed manual gearbox, but the 1.8-litre petrol is hampered by a CVT transmission and feels quite slow as a result. The 1.6-litre petrol isn’t as potent, and makes up a very small slice of sales as a result, even if it is the cheapest. If you go for the 1.6-litre BMW diesel engine, Toyota will also fit new springs and tweak the engine mounts to help deliver a smoother ride. By making the Verso stiffer than its predecessor, Toyota has struck a better balance between comfort and dynamic ability. Even with the updates, the Verso still doesn't handle particularly well, the handling is void of any feel and is too light at higher speeds. The Verso is still no match for the C-MAX when it comes to handling, but it is more predictable and easy to drive. Plus, the high driving position and good visibility are big plus points. The new diesel engine is not as refined or smooth as the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer or new C4 Grand Picasso, and both cars are cleaner too.
Toyota performs consistently well in the Driver Power reliability survey and it finished an impressive ninth overall in the 2013 results. The Verso shares its engine range with the Auris, although you have to go for the Prius+ if you want a hybrid, but the standard units have been tried and tested for many years. Plus, every Toyota comes with a five-year warranty, which should cover you in the event that anything goes wrong. The pre-facelift car received a full five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP when it was first tested in 2010, with a score of 89 per cent for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent for safety assist. This puts it on a par with newer rivals like the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. Electronic stability control and ABS are fitted as standard, along with driver, passenger and curtain airbags.
The entry-level Verso Active model is available with a choice of five or seven seats, but all other versions come with seven seats as standard. Thanks to Toyota’s Easy Flat system, there are a total of 32 configurations possible. The second row of three individual seats is built to slide back and forwards, allowing for a larger boot or more legroom, while the rearmost pair of seats can be lowered with a pull of a lever and fold flat into the floor. The Verso is one of the smallest seven-seat MPVs on the market and while that makes it easier to drive around town, it means passenger space inside is significantly reduced. With all the seats in place there's 155 litres of luggage space and only 440 litres with the two rearmost seats folded. The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso dwarfs the Toyota’s offering with a 632-litre boot. The wheelarches on the Verso also intrude into the boot space slightly, but the seats fold easily and leave a completely flat floor. While the Verso’s third row seats are only suitable for children, the legroom in the second row is much better. There’s plenty of storage up front, too, with a pair of gloveboxes and a large centre console bin. However the door pockets are really narrow, and although the double level glovebox is a nice idea in theory, in practice it's only big enough to carry really small items - and the same it true of the small slots either side of the gearknob.
The 1.6-litre diesel is also the most efficient engine in the range, with Toyota claiming it'll return 62.8mpg and emit 119g/km. While the figures are an improvement over the 2.0-litre diesel which it replaced, the smaller and cleaner diesel engine still can't match rivals like the 1.6 TDCi Ford Grand C-MAX and is way off the Zafira Tourer - which dips below 100g/km on some models, and has more power. The two petrol Verso models are equally average, with the 1.6-litre managing 42.8mpg and 154g/km of CO2. This stacks up well against the 1.4-litre VW Touran’s 41.5mpg and 159g/km, but not the 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine from Ford. Also in the Verso’s favour are its low company car tax ratings and strong residual values - it should hold onto around 42 per cent of its list price after three years - which is considerably better than MPV rivals like the Renault Grand Scenic. Buyers can also choose the Toyota Access system, which offers a guaranteed buyback price and fixed-price servicing deals.